Logistics News

Truck safety a deal breaker on OHS reform

NSW demands extra fatigue management requirements for trucking operators as part of national OHS reforms

By Brad Gardner | November 3, 2010

NSW is demanding extra requirements for the trucking industry as part of national occupational health and safety reforms, potentially doubling the administrative burden on operators.

Police and Finance Minister Michael Daley wants all jurisdictions to adopt the state’s OHS heavy vehicle provisions or at least allow them to continue within NSW.

All states and territories are currently working toward introducing a national model to replace the 10 different schemes that currently exist.

Under the NSW system, duty holders must prepare fatigue management and trip plans. They are banned from signing a contract that does not address fatigue management.

NSW operators must manage driver suitability, loading and unloading schedules and implement systems to allow drivers to report hazards and incidents, including mechanical failures.

“The NSW Government will strongly advocate for the inclusion of work health and safety regulations regarding long distance driver fatigue as part of negotiations around the harmonisation of OHS laws and regulations,” Daley says.

“We will ask the other states to respect these positions because they are important to NSW.”

The move comes despite the fact fatigue management laws introduced in 2008 already require operators to use trip plans and schedules.

Businesses are also obliged to keep copies of timesheets and driver details and proof that drivers have been trained in fatigue management.

But Daley, a former NSW roads minister, says NSW and Western Australia are the only jurisdictions that include the measures in OHS regulations.

“Employers, head contractors, consignees and consigners all have driver fatigue management obligations under NSW regulations,” he says.

“They are required to prepare a driver fatigue management plan for all employees who are drivers who, in the course of their employment, transport freight over long distance.”

Head contractors, consigners and consignees in NSW must also prepare a fatigue management plan if they enter a contract with an owner-driver.

Daley’s move follows Premier Kristina Keneally’s decision to retain state-based provisions that put the reverse onus of proof on employers and allow unions to prosecute companies of OHS breaches.

Despite being criticised by Prime Minister Julia Gillard and business groups for her stance, Keneally is adamant the provisions have lowered workplace incidents and fatalities.

“Lowering our standards, in a misguided attempt to save money, is not an option,” she says.

Opposition leader Barry O’Farrell labelled the Government’s actions a “pre-election grubby deal with the unions”, but Keneally says it is about preserving high safety standards.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) claims the NSW Government’s actions threaten to undermine reform efforts.

ACCI CEO Peter Anderson says the NSW OHS law should be “consigned to the dustbin and replaced by a fairer and workable model”.

The group labels reverse onus of proof and the ability of unions to prosecute as “stains on the state justice system”.

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